I'd rather you didn't say that

Ed
Ed Smith
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What's offensive? Depends on who you are and where you're from. Most of us in this province are offended by "Newfie jokes." So-called jokes that make us look stupid, ignorant, slack and/or lazy.

We're not the only victims of these racial slurs, of course. The same "jokes" have been told, with minor variations on the themes, about Polacks, Swedes, Wops (Italians), Jews and any other nationality considered by the so-called elite of the world to be inferior to them.

The view from here - What's offensive? Depends on who you are and where you're from. Most of us in this province are offended by "Newfie jokes." So-called jokes that make us look stupid, ignorant, slack and/or lazy.

We're not the only victims of these racial slurs, of course. The same "jokes" have been told, with minor variations on the themes, about Polacks, Swedes, Wops (Italians), Jews and any other nationality considered by the so-called elite of the world to be inferior to them.

There are other sources for this type of "humour." Towns and cities often consider themselves superior to smaller or more rural jurisdictions. Townies (St. John's natives), for example, have been making fun of "bay wops" since Sir Humphrey Gilbert by mistake claimed St. John's for the Queen in the early 1500s (he thought he was in Carbonear).

Larger and richer provinces have been prime sources for the aforementioned Newfie jokes. Those of us who have lived in Ontario and Alberta for even a short length of time have had to stand up to this sort of thing on an almost continuing basis. Even the large daily newspapers and journalists have been taking cracks at us since 1949. Consider the Calgary Herald, the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente and Jeffrey Simpson, just to give a few samples of the hordes of tormentors.

On at least two occasions, OH has gone backstage to voice an objection to entertainers who have used "Newfieland" as the butt for much of their humour.

The reason, of course, is that Ontario has always been a "have" province, while we for 500 years have been the "have nots" of the nation. I've been offended by these "jokes" because I don't want to see my brother and sister Newfoundland and Labradorians portrayed as stupid, ignorant and you know the rest of it.

Did our mainland cousins get offended when we told funny stories about them? No way. They were too far above us to even notice what we said about them. Fair enough. That's how the process works.

But now, how are the mighty fallen! Suddenly Ontario, according to its premier, is teetering on the edge of "have not" while we poor folk down here are about to leap over the chasm into the land of "have."

The result was inevitable. No sooner had Premier McGinty uttered the unbelievable words "have not" in connection with his province than the tables turned, quickly and completely. Suddenly, our Ontario kin don't like it at all when we have fun with them. I've been doing it for years, of course, but they paid no attention to me. Now they're mortally offended when they start getting back a small taste of what they've been dishing out.

Tough. We have a long way to go, brethren and sistern from Upalong, before we're even. A very long way. You want to know how long? Continue reading "the view."

Truth is, I didn't intend to go on with all this stuff at the beginning, but once I got started the temptation was too great.

I wanted to talk about something that really offended OH and me when we saw it today. It was in a television spectacular called Canada China Hands or China Canada Hands. Anyway, it was another of those programs leading up to the Beijing Olympics. All very nice.

Then they introduced this country singer named George Canyon. George sang a song he said he'd written about a young athlete he knew who had a dream of competing in the Olympics but who, unfortunately, was "confined to a wheelchair."

So far so good. Then George made a statement which I'm sure he intended to be inspiring, and may well have been to many.

However, it was anything but to me and many others like me. Because this fellow had faith, George said in an awestruck voice, and because he was "no quitter," he made his way out of that wheelchair and realized his dream. I think the name of the song was, "He's No Quitter."

I'm sure thousands nodded their heads on hearing that and said aloud, "How true. Good for him." And I say, "Good for him," too. But the impression left in the minds of many is that those of us still in wheelchairs are there because we do not have enough faith and/or are obviously quitters.

That isn't the way it works at all. George didn't explain, perhaps didn't know, that spinal cord injuries are classed as "complete" when the cord is completely crushed or cut, and "incomplete" when some of it is left intact. In the latter instance, the possibility of regaining some use of limbs is always there, but not in the former. It has nothing to do with being a quitter. I don't consider myself a quitter but I will probably never get out of this chair.

Then there's the small matter of doing it if you have enough faith. Perhaps there's some truth in that, I don't know. But I do know it's awfully easy for people who are not "healed" of their injuries or infirmities to be victims of that terrible accusation, "He didn't have enough faith."

I'll always remember a wonderful old gentleman in Springdale who used to "put away" warts. Our youngest daughter had plantar's warts on her feet and nothing her doctor did could cure them.

Finally, in desperation, we took her to this man. His first question was, "Do you think I can do this?" She, with all the honesty of her 12 years, said bluntly, "No, I don't," and I thought to myself, well, there goes that. His response? "Doesn't matter, my dear. They'll be gone in two weeks." And they were. That remains my only comment on the faith issue.

What I find offensive about this kind of thing is the ease with which people toss off the statement that if we all tried hard enough, if we weren't "quitters," if we had enough faith, we could all be hopping over the fields like young kangaroos.

It ain't true, people, it just ain't true. At least not for me.

It may be different for you.

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@persona.ca

Organizations: Calgary Herald, Globe and Mail, China Canada Hands Beijing Olympics

Geographic location: Ontario, St. John's, Carbonear Alberta Springdale

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